Movement and memory: different cognitive strategies are used to search for resources with different natural distributions

Danielle Sulikowski, Darren Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Recent attempts to integrate function and mechanism have resulted in an appreciation of the relevance of forager psychology to understanding the functional aspects of foraging behaviour. Conversely, an acknowledgement of the functional diversity of learning mechanisms has led to greater understanding of the adaptive nature of cognition. In this paper, we present data from three experiments suggesting that noisy miner birds use different cognitive strategies when searching for foods with different distributions. When searching for nectar, an immobile, readily depleted resource, birds spontaneously attend to fine-scale spatial information and use a spatial memory-based strategy that is efficient in a novel context and largely resistant to disruptions to movement. When searching for invertebrates, a mobile, clumped and cryptic resource, birds employ a strategy whose efficiency increases with increased task familiarity, is vulnerable to disruptions to their movement and may rely more on memory for movement rules than memory for location information. Previous reports of adapted cognition have reported performance differences between species (for example, better spatial cognitive performance in storing versus non-storing birds). Ours is the first study to demonstrate that differences in cognitive strategy (as opposed to just enhanced performance) occur within a single species in different foraging contexts. As well as providing an example of how specially adapted cognitive mechanisms might work, our data further emphasise the importance of jointly considering functional and mechanistic aspects to fully understand the adaptive complexities of behaviour.

LanguageEnglish
Pages621-631
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Fingerprint

geographical distribution
cognition
bird
birds
resource
foraging
familiarity
psychology
functional diversity
nectar
foraging behavior
learning
invertebrate
invertebrates
food
distribution
experiment

Keywords

  • foraging
  • function
  • mechanism
  • resource distribution
  • search strategy
  • spatial cognition

Cite this

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Movement and memory : different cognitive strategies are used to search for resources with different natural distributions. / Sulikowski, Danielle; Burke, Darren.

In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Vol. 65, No. 4, 04.2011, p. 621-631.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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